Jimmie Schramm and Bellamy, her 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding, know what it means to work hard. Together, Jimmie and “Bells” have tackled the upper levels, working through bumps in the road and forging a partnership in the face of difficulties. A few weeks ago, their hard work culminated in successfully completing the Bromont International CCI3*, finishing in 14th place after putting the pieces together throughout the weekend.
But Jimmie and Bells haven’t always had the best of times together. “One thing I’ve learned from this horse is the importance of perseverance. We didn’t get off on the best foot together,” Jimmie said. “You have to believe that if you have a gut feeling about a horse to just go with it. There were definitely more than a few times along the road where I was just over him. I was ready to sell him, and whether it was Dom or someone else telling me to stick it out, I listened, and I’m glad I did.”
Things were very different when Jimmie purchased Bellamy in 2009. “He was unrideable and quite wild,” Jimmie said. “I couldn’t warm him up at events because he was so horse shy; he would just bolt everywhere. It was to the point where I couldn’t warm up, so I’d just go into the dressage ring and hope for the best. It was so influential to me to just keep on trucking and keep working, and we’ve come a long way.”
Last year, Jimmie moved up to Advanced with Bellamy and entered the CCI3* at Fair Hill International, where she elected to retire on cross country. This year, she came out with a plan to get some more three-star experience under her belt and was determined to get better at the level.
“I didn’t have a good trip at Fair Hill last year, so starting out this year I just wanted to make sure that his cross-country was solid. Bromont was always the goal for the first half of the season. We went to Carolina International, and he was just so good on a course where a lot of problems popped up, and he jumped in too big to the water and fell on the landing. I probably could have gotten him in a bit deeper, but it happened. I was pleased with how he handled the other technical parts of the course, though.”
Jimmie then entered the CIC3* at Fair Hill and was technically eliminated for jumping an option incorrectly, leading her to believe that the venue had officially become her nemesis. After that, Jimmie re-routed to Jersey Fresh, where she was able to put in a solid run despite one glance off on cross country. “One element I struggle a lot with is a big downhill jump to a technical combination,” Jimmie said. “I think I just have trouble trusting him enough, so I pulled and got a funny distance, and he couldn’t make it. He wasn’t worried at all, but it was something we needed to work on.”
In preparation for Bromont, Jimmie worked on her cross country with Boyd Martin, who implemented many technical questions in their training so that she would learn to think quicker and make solid decisions.
After walking the cross country at Bromont, Jimmie was definitely feeling the butterflies. “One of the types of combinations I was worried about came near the end of the course, so I was worried about him being tired at that point, but he honestly felt great the whole way around,” she said. “He was very bold and just great the whole weekend.“
Jimmie came back home officially qualified to compete in her first CCI4* at Rolex next year. “I try to be realistic about it,” she said. “The easiest part is probably qualifying for Rolex, but there are so many other things that need to happen before we can go. We need to get some more three-star experience, but it’s hard because it isn’t fair to him to run him too much. I want to do Fair Hill again this year and conquer that course because if we can’t get around Fair Hill then we have no business going to Rolex.“
Jimmie remains optimistic and positive about her goals with Bellamy and is thankful to have had the opportunity to ride this horse. “Another big thing he’s taught me is to not set your expectations too high,” she said. “Sometimes I get a bit frustrated with myself because, of course, I’d like to be in the top 10 or top five or, ideally, winning, at this level. But it’s a long process. These great riders have been doing this for years and have wonderful horses. Bells is my first one, and we are both still learning.
“It’s okay to expect a lot from yourself as a rider, but I think you have to be fair to yourself and to your horse. I’m new to this level and so is he, but I’m just glad to be learning with him, and I’m excited to see where we can go from here.”